What just happened at MSP?

We went out to dinner with close friends this past Saturday evening. One of our friends told me the story below, which I asked the friend to reduce to writing in as great detail as was remembered. This is the story. It is an interesting story. It has the additional advantage of being true. I thought readers would find it of interest. My friend writes:

On Sunday, October 18, I was a passenger onboard Delta Flight 821, with direct service from LAX to Mpls-St Paul, when something quite scary happened. I am still pondering the implications of what I saw and heard that day.

Flight 821 departed Los Angeles at 11:10 am that Sunday, touching ground in Minneapolis a bit before our scheduled 4:30 pm arrival time. Up to that point, the flight had been smooth and uneventful – but that was about to change.

“We will not be exiting the plane immediately,” the captain announced over the loudspeakers as the plane taxied to our gate and came to a stop. “We will wait here for TSA agents to come aboard and chat with someone. Thank you for your patience.”

A few minutes later, a handful of agents wearing dark pants and black flak jackets, with guns holstered in tan leather belts underneath their jackets, walked briskly down the aisle. The group of agents stopped at the row behind me, Row 18 (my seat was 17E, the middle seat of row 17), addressing the passenger seated in the 18F window seat, a young woman somewhere between 18 and 25, dressed in all-black, with long wavy dark hair and a pale face.

“We need you to come with us,” one of the male agents told her, leaning in across the entire row. “Do you have any luggage?” he continued as she stood.

“No,” she replied.

“You don’t have any luggage?”

“Someone took it,” she answered.

“Did you travel together?” the agent asked the elderly, white-haired couple seated next to her.

The couple shook their heads in unison and moved aside as the female passenger rose and walked toward the exit, an agent flanking her on each side. A few moments later, I turned at the sound of footsteps approaching from the back of the plane. Two more agents came up the aisle, flanking a dark-haired, pale-skinned man who looked to be somewhere in his 20s, casually dressed in a black leather jacket and dark pants, staring straight ahead as he was being escorted up the aisle toward the plane’s exit.

At this point, I exchanged glances with the woman seated to my right in Row 17, our eyes wide in astonishment at the unfolding events. Before we had time to share any thoughts, a male agent returned to Row 18, squeezing past the white-haired couple. Turning my head, I saw the agent crouching down in front of seat 17F, hands ripping the blue seat and back cushions off their base, exposing something that looked like plastic bags underneath.

At this point, I started to feel too much like a gawker and so turned away, intending to let the agent do his job without my eyes pinned to his back. The woman to my right in Row 17 had no such compunctions. Without hesitation, she turned until she stood facing Row 18, melodious voice recounting each development blow-by-blow.

“Yeah, ok, there are the drugs,” she exclaimed. A bit later: “Wow, a gun.”

I half-turned, seeing only the agent’s bent back and parts of his hands as he smoothed the blue seat cushions back onto Seat 17F before straightening and quickly walking past the elderly couple toward the plane’s exit.

“They get the ones you’d least suspect to do these things,” commented the talkative woman to my right, eyes on mine, head shaking. “If those people went to church on Sundays, they wouldn’t be doing that.” I nodded at the woman, got up and exited the plane.

As it happened, I had a dinner party to go to that evening. I drove straight to Edina, where the hostess and her guests greeted my tale of the apparent drug bust with great interest. As the evening wore on, my friend Paul wagered we would read about the story in the Star Tribune the next day.

However, no such story appeared in the paper Monday morning, prompting my friend to reach out to his Strib contact, who in turn asked if one of her reporters could get in touch with me to hear my story. I agreed and that afternoon Strib reporter Paul Walsh called me. Walsh started by saying he had gotten the gist of the story through his editor, and had just spoken to someone at the Mpls-St Paul Airport Security, asking that person if some sort of raid had occurred the day before onboard a Delta plane. Walsh then told me that the security person had replied that (here I quote from memory): “None of our agents were involved in a raid yesterday.”

Walsh asked me to recount my story with as many details as possible, recording while I spoke, occasionally asking a few clarifying follow-up questions. Afterward, he thanked me, telling me that he would now call the MSP Airport Security office again to present them with the specifics of my account.

Half an hour later, Walsh called back, telling me that he once again had spoken to someone at MSP Airport Security, and it appeared that there was no story after all.

“They told me that no arrests were made yesterday onboard your flight,” he said. “And they also said that that what was found (I always thought this was curious wording) under those seats was not drugs,” he continued. “And they explained to me that the reason those two individuals were led off the plane was that they resembled two people who had skirted airport security at LAX.”

“Perhaps the agents found something other than drugs under those seats,” I suggested.

“Yeah, like the shredded emails of Hilary,” he laughed, appearing content to drop the matter entirely.

Walsh and I signed off after that. Since then, the events aboard Delta Flight 821 have taken on the patina of a series of curious and somewhat disconcerting events, with quite a few “what ifs” sprinkled in. Maybe I ought to relax, not be unduly suspicious. Perhaps the airport officials told Walsh all there is to know about Flight 821. Perhaps the official explanation is truly the end of this story….